Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bonneville, Savoy

c.1812–15

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 190 x 286 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08164
Turner Bequest CXVIII J

Catalogue entry

Engraved:
Etching (attributed), mezzotint and aquatint by Henry Dawe, ‘Bonneville, Savoy.’, published Turner, ?1 January 1819 although dated 1 January 1816
Turner’s Liber Studiorum design was informed by the studies, watercolours and paintings of the French town on the Arve deriving from his visit in 1802, early in his journey through the Alps on his first Continental tour, in particular a colour study in the St Gothard and Mont Blanc sketchbook (Tate D04599; Turner Bequest LXXV 7), looking east from the Geneva road which Turner had travelled. It is one of several Liber designs based on sketches in the book (see also Tate D08123, D08153, D08161; Turner Bequest CXVI V, CXVII Y, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII G; and Tate N03631; in addition, Mer de Glace1 may have been etched directly from another page).
The colour sketch was the basis of the painting Bonneville, Savoy, with Mont Blanc, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1803 (Dallas Museum of Art),2 two watercolours of about 1808–9 (private collection3 and British Museum, London, 1910–2–12–2844), and a second version in oils, A View of the Castle of St Michael, near Bonneville, Savoy, exhibited at Royal Academy in 1812 (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 848).5 As compared with the oil versions, the town in the Liber design has been moved towards the centre, leaving the boulders and figures behind at the lower left. The looming mountains have been emphasised by concealing most of the second range beyond the town and positioning the nearer, steep slope immediately behind the towers and gables. The attitudes of the two figures in the foreground are similar to those in the 1812 Philadelphia version, and are thus among possible indicators of the date of the present work; it has been suggested that Turner’s plan to include the view in the Liber may even have prompted the 1812 oil.6
Gillian Forrester has registered the uncertainty of precedence between the oil and the drawing, but it seems likely at least that the latter dates from about the same time, if not a little later.7 Between 1802 and 1817, Turner also made a parallel, variant sequence of works showing the mountains from a similar angle, but with the town further in the distance down a road leading from the left foreground and with a building and trees to the right.8
1
Rawlinson 1878, pp.103–4 no.50; 1906, pp.121–2 no.50; Finberg 1924, pp.197–200 no.50.
2
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.35–6 no.46, pl.56 (colour).
3
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, 1979, p.343 no.381, reproduced.
4
Ibid., no.385, reproduced.
5
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.87–8 no.124, pl.57 (colour).
6
Ibid., p.87.
7
Forrester 1996, p.126.
8
Wilton 1979, p.340 no.355, reproduced; Butlin and Evelyn Joll 1984, pp.39–40 no.50, pl.59 (colour); Tate D04901 (Turner Bequest LXXX H); Wilton 1979, p.345 no.400.
9
Forrester 1996, p.160 (transcribed).
10
Ibid., p.162 (transcribed).
11
Ibid., p.163 (transcribed).
12
Rawlinson 1878, pp.126–34; Rawlinson 1906, pp.148–58; Finberg 1924, pp.245–64.
13
Hardie 1938, p.51 no.12.
14
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.72.
1
Forrester 1996, pp.15, 24 note 82, 126 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); see also Bower, Tate conservation files.
2
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files, with slide of detail.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

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